Iron Fen

Oneway Distance: 0.6k/0.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
XC Skill level:
Elevation: 9683 - 9738 feet
Cellphone: 0-2 bars
Time: 30 mins.
Trailhead: Ironton Park
Fee: none
Attractions: Scenic side trail

Iron Fen is part of the Ironton Park Nordic Trails in the Uncompahgre National Forest south of Ouray, Colorado. The almost half mile long ungroomed trail makes a semi loop where both ends connect to separate places of the groomed Saratoga trail.

The trailhead is located along Highway 550, 8 miles south of the town of Ouray, in an area known as Ironton Park. The park is in a large subalpine meadow where the Million Dollar Highway levels off before finishing its climb over Red Mountain Pass.

For this post we followed the Iron Fen trail from where it departs from the Saratoga trail at the end of the groomed portion of the Saratoga.

The trail starts out along a level course as it heads north.

Since the trail is ungroomed we were fortunate enough to have someone else's tracks to follow.

At its northernmost point the trail bends around toward the west in the direction of the Million Dollar Highway.

From here you can look up and catch a good view of Mount Hayden.

The trees thin out and give way to willows as the trail turns south and is now heading up the valley in the direction of Red Mountain Pass.

On this day the area was under a 'winter storm warning'. The skies were ashen gray for the most part and in places the wind was blowing quite strong down the valley. With all of that the trail was still enjoyable. None of these trails are all that long and you are never too far away from the trailhead that you can't quickly get back to your vehicle.

As the trail neared its other end there were a couple of blue diamond trail markers. Up to this point we hadn't seen any at all and if there weren't already some tracks to follow route finding may have been pretty tough.

The Iron Fen trail reconnects with the Saratoga trail and comes to an end. With the other tracks to follow the trail was pretty fast even though it wasn't groomed.

The next day after this visit to the Ironton Park Nordic Trails the Million Dollar Highway was closed for two days due to a winter storm that dumped almost 3 feet of snow on it. The drive between Ouray and Ironton Park can be pretty harrowing even during the summer months. The road shoulder drops off into the precipice of the canyon like the edge of a table in places with no guard rails or anything else. If you can keep from being unnerved by that then you will be able to enjoy the rugged beauty of the place which during the winter is enhanced by decorative falls of ice. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.